Supplemental: “Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which led to The Great Recession!”

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

And now, for the rest of the script: It’s a bit like New England weather! If you don’t like Maureen Dowd’s view, you can just wait a while.

On Sunday, July 13, Bill Clinton was letting his only child be drawn into “the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.”

“The Clintons keep acting as though all they care about is selfless public service,” the irate columnist thundered. “So why does it keep coming back to gross money grabs?”

The Clinton Foundation was “wasteful and disorganized,” Dowd said. As she closed, she said that Bill and Hillary Clinton “need to protect their daughter...from their wanton acquisitiveness.”

That was Sunday, July 13. Seven days later—it was now Sunday, July 20—Dowd composed a silly love letter to the same Bill Clinton. Her piece was based on a two-point jump in Clinton’s approval rating, achieved over seven years.

We were struck by the change in the columnist’s apparent viewpoint. We were also struck by a recurrent theme which appeared in the comments to her column.

We refer to complaints about the way Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. This has become a familiar, scripted complaint from the left. The complaint popped up several dozen times in the comments to Dowd’s love letter.

A few examples:

COMMENTER FROM MAINE: That all sounds very nice and warm, Maureen. More milk-and-cookies myth-making around bedtime. Clinton did well and does have a Teflon personality. But conveniently, we all seem to forget that Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which led to The Great Recession...

COMMENTER FROM MASSACHUSETTS: I don't share in this taste. I think about DOMA and the repeal of Glass Steagall and all those scandals besides the Lewinsky one. I see Bill Clinton as having specific strengths, I don't find the whole package appealing.

COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK CITY: Revisionist history is wonderful. In our fantasy Clinton didn't dismantle Glass-Steagall, didn't pass NAFTA, didn't sign DOMA. He was such as nice cuddly guy. We are idiots and we deserve what we get.

COMMENTER FROM WEST OF THE GWB: And while the stock market soared, the irrational exuberance did not end well, especially after Bubba took care of his Wall Street backers by eliminating Glass-Steagall and deregulating derivatives trading.

COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: Maureen leaves out the big one: the New Democrat cozying up to corporations and banks, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, deregulation, repeal of Glass-Steagall, leading directly to all the excesses and banking crimes and the real estate bubble and crash. The actual main cause of the Great Recession was, yes, folks, Bill Clinton.

COMMENTER FROM FLORIDA: I believe he lit the fuse and got out of town. As a globalist (NAFTA) he is as responsible for our state today as his successor. Teaming up with Gingrich and Gramm to repeal Glass-Steagall lit the fuse of our downfall. These were the greatest policy failures of the last half-century.

COMMENTER FROM OHIO: Does Bill Clinton really get a pass for NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the prohibition of regulating financial derivatives? These were positives for corporatism and negatives for the 99% and for real, stable, and sustainable economic growth.

NEW JERSEY: People have short memories. Clinton was surely a master politician...But he single-handedly ended the influence of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the Congress—welfare reform, Glass-Siegel ended, NAFTA...
Inevitably, it was left to a professor to wax most eloquent on this topic. The professor (of Arabic) wrote from Colgate:
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: [H]istory may not be as generous or as forgiving to former President Clinton as it may appear now.

And this may not be because of the “women, the cheesy behavior, the fund-raising excesses, the self-pity, the adolescent narcissism, the impeachment, the charges of racially tinged insults against Obama in 2008.” Nor is it because of Hillary. It is because of two decisions, one domestic and the other international.

The domestic decision is the agreement former President Clinton made with congressional Republicans during his administration, which set the stage for the passage of one of the most sweeping and destructive banking deregulation bill in American history: The lifting of all restraints on the operation of the giant monopolies within the financial system, which led to the devastating economic crisis of 2008.
Some commenters seemed to think that Clinton has repealed Glass-Steagall all by himself. Others said he had joined with congressional Republicans—Newt and them—to accomplish this task.

Like you, like these commenters, we aren’t experts on the repeal of Glass-Steagall. To see Paul Krugman seem to say that this didn’t produce “the 2008 implosion of Wall Street,” you can just click here.

We aren’t experts on this topic. We do have a bit of expertise concerning the growth of scripted overstatement as the basic building-block of the American discourse.

Because we’re skeptics concerning script, even when it comes from the left, we decided to look up the vote which repealed Glass-Steagall.

Bill Clinton didn’t do it all by himself! Nor did he do it with Newt alone. The vote in the Senate was 90-8. The vote among Senate Democrats was 38-7 in favor of repeal.

We don’t know why people voted the way they did. But these are some of the famous Dems who voted to repeal Glass-Steagall:

Senator Kennedy
Senator Biden
Senator Harry Reid
Senator John Kerry
Senator Daschle
Senator Byrd
Senator Durbin
Senator Leahy
Senator John Edwards
Senator Murray
Senator Wyden
Senator Levin
Senator Sarbanes

Seven Democrats voted no; they were joined by Senator Shelby, the Alabama Republican. But a wide array of major Democrats voted in favor of repeal, including Ted Kennedy.

Why did people vote as they did? We have no idea.

But the claim that Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall is blowing up as an easily-memorized, all-purpose “progressive” script.

The story seems a bit more complex. As we keep becoming more like them, we thought you might want to know that.


  1. You're correct, Clinton did not repeal Glass-Steagall alone, we need to also blame those in the house and senate who supported its repeal.

    Likewise, Bush did not pointlessly invade Iraq alone, we need to also blame those in the house and senate who supported that invasion.

    That is why i'll never vote for H. Clinton. "Out, damn spot." indeed.

    1. Did you vote for Kerry in 2004? Who did you support in 2008 primaries and who did you ultimately vote for in general election? Obama didn't vote to authorize because he wasn't in Senate. My observation has been that this war vote outrage is usually Clinton specific. An excuse, not a reason.

    2. In your zeal to defend Somerby, do you even see the point hankest is making?

    3. I did not vote for Kerry, because he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. I did vote for Obama, mainly because he spoke out against the war in 2002.

      As for it being "not a reason." Really? I think it's an excellent reason. Carry on.

    4. Then Obama chose Biden as veep, Clinton as sos, and Republican, Gates, a former CIA director as Defense chief. At that point, you knew you had been scammed. Btw, if you voted for Nader im 2000, you bear much responsibility for Bush being sort of elected.

    5. I didn't vote for Obama in 2012, not least of all because of his SOS choices.

      I voted for Nader in 2000, but live in NYS - Gore won here. Electoral College and all that. So i can't "bear much responsibility for Bush" even in your fevered imagination.

    6. I don't agree with your reason for voting against Kerrey and Clinton, hankest. But it certainly is a reason.

  2. Apparently Bill Clinton was just another lawless president acting tyrannically on his own in violation of the sacred Constitutional balance of powers.

    It's Suetonius all over again. Debauched, mad Caligula (Clinton), followed by stammering, idiotic Claudius (W.), and now we're stuck with Nero playing pool while American Exceptionalism burns. They all have themselves declared gods (on a par with Lincoln and Washington) and build temples (presidential libraries) to their eternal glory. Must we wait for a knifing in the Forum? Let's sue the bastard!

  3. None other than Elizabeth Warren herself acknowledges that not a single bank failed because of repeal of Glass-Steagall. Therefore, that did not cause The Great Recession.

    1. I believe the problem with repealing Glass Steagal is the banks became too big to fail, meaning they were certain they could take huge risks and that Uncle Sucker would bail them out (even if their risks cause a great recession).

      Elizabeth Warren is one of the strongest voices for reinstating a new Glass-Steagall act, mainly so there's no more "too big to fail."

      Carry on

    2. Robert Sheer:

      "'Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority,' a beaming Clinton boasted after signing the Financial Services Modernization Act into law in 1999.
      Called the Citigroup authorization act by some wags at the time, those antiquated laws, the Glass-Steagall Act primarily, had put a safety barrier between the high rollers in Wall Street investment firms and the staid commercial banks charged with preserving the savings of ordinary folk. The new law permitted them to merge.
      Clinton handed the pen that he used in signing the new law to Citigroup Chairman Sanford Weill, whose Citicorp had already merged with Travelers Group before the law was even officially changed. On an earlier occasion, Weill had informed Clinton about his merger plans in a telephone conversation. After hanging up, Weill then bragged to his fellow banking executive John S. Reed, who was on the call, that “we just made the president of the United States an insider,” according to Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley in her book on the Citigroup merger."

    3. The giant banks had to be bailed out.

  4. Jeeves, which knifing in the Forum are you referring to?

  5. If not for Lewinsky there's a good chance Gore would have won. It may not have stopped 911 from happening but it probably would have avoided Iraq from happening and a good chance we would have avoided the worst recession in decades as well.

    We can never be certain how the future might have been but Clinton will never be redeemed in my mind for what he did to the country, to the Democratic party, and to that young lady.

    1. If Bill Clinton had cared more for the country and the benefits of liberalism for this country than he cared for himself, he would have resigned when he was caught lying to a grand jury and to America about Lewinsky. He would have turned the presidency over to Al Gore.

      In turning over the presidency to Al Gore in 1998 when Clinton was caught lying and impeached, Clinton could have made clear to the country that dealing with foreign extremists was more important than rescuing his reputation. It should have been obvious to Clinton that the fallout from his lying would distract from confronting the extremists' threat, and he would thus resign.

      Clinton could have given Gore the advantage of incumbency in dangerous times, when Gore faced the 2000 election. Instead he burdened Gore with Gore being Vice President to a liar who was going to hold onto power no matter what.

      There are a number of reasons Gore lost in 2000. But if Democrats want to point a finger at one person as a major factor, it shouldn't be Ralph Nader, but rather Bill Clinton.

    2. bill clinton reduced the national debt to zero. now the country is near bankruptcy because of two spendthrift presidents, obama and bush. he ended welfare as we know it thereby giving the pride of working to millions of people. women were in love with him. men considered him to be a man's man and wanted to drink beer with him. clinton has more charisma in one finger than the following presidents has in both hands.

    3. " ...he would have resigned when he was caught lying to a grand jury and to America about Lewinsky..."

      Clinton lied to a grand jury? Really, when was that?

    4. Where is any mention of Jimmy Carter? Is he dead? (No.)

    5. Bill Clinton is more intelligent than most of those who ever got to the White House - exception made with Teddy Roosevelt. Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.

    6. I don't know what our constitution SHOULD say, but if Bill ran again he would be elected.

    7. Well, my vote is for a change to the Constitution, and bring Bill back. At least he seemed to like his job. In lieu of that, I just cannot wait for The First Gentleman!

    8. I want the Constitution to be amended again so that I can vote Bill back into office!


    9. Looking at performance only, that is, leading the country to peace and prosperity, Bill Clinton was without a doubt one of the top three Presidents of the 20th century.

      He also happens to have made some really, really stupid mistakes in his personal life, which is unfortunate and all too human. Those look like silly soap opera scripts compared with the criminal behavior of Nixon and the warmongering of W.

      Even with those personal mistakes, he is right up there with FDR and Theodore Roosevelt for his effectiveness on the job, inspirational ability and connection to Americans.

      He is also very, very lucky to be married to Hillary, who I hope will be elected President soon.

    10. If Bill Clinton could run he would win in a landslide. Yes it was peace and prosperity by he really cared for people.

    11. Bill Clinton is popular because he helped to create a balance budget, kept us secure and out of wars and handled foreign crises in a intelligent and mature manner.
      He didn't spend all of his time on the golf course, he lived in the real world.

    12. If Hillary wants to be elected, then don't follow the Al Gore electoral playbook in '16 where Gore kept Bill Clinton at a distance (costing him Arkansas and the Presidency in '00)

    13. Raise your hand if you do long for the days of Bill Clinton's presidency. I would not mind an encore. Well, pesky Constitution notwithstanding, it feels good to dream...

    14. I may be liberal, progressive whatever,
      but I cannot forgive a man who defiles the highest executive office to take advantage of a confused young woman no older than his daughter we may have W. to thank for getting Barack Obama, but let us not forget it was thanks to Clinton that we got W. as President after him.

    15. This is untrue in so many ways.

    16. Which ways do you find most important?

    17. Chelsea Clinton was born in 1980; Monica Lewinsky, in 1973. When the latter had sex with Bill Clinton in 1995, she was an adult by a comfortable margin. The former was a minor. There's no evidence that Lewinsky was "confused" about what she was doing, and plenty to indicate otherwise, including her own words and Starr's report.

      It's time to get off the fainting couch when we learn that people have sex outside of marriage. And it's time to stop describing consensual sex as "defiling." Bill Clinton committed no offense against you, so there's no reason for him to ask your forgiveness or for you to mount your high horse and withhold it.

      Bill Clinton broke his word to his wife, embarrassing both his wife and his daughter. Feel free to judge his character wanting. But there's little to indicate that his lack of character got the WPE elected.

    18. bill clinton reduced the national debt to zero. now the country is near bankruptcy because of two spendthrift presidents, obama and bush.

      During Clinton's Presidency, the national debt increased, from around $4.9T at the end of FY1993 to about $5.6T at the end of FY2001 (using the value of the dollar in 2009). When Clinton left office, he had a nominal budget surplus, but that's different.

      It's absurd to pretend the country is near bankruptcy.

    19. It is good to see veteran TDH commenters deadrat and mm feeling the same urge as Bob Somerby; to respond to online commenters to Maureen Dowd.

      All of the comments prior to 10:00 pm except mm's in this sub thread are responses to Dowd's piece in the NY Times. They were reprinted here to indicate Bob is disappearing much of what Dowd's commenters had to say and to liven things up, since his own views were generating squat and squadoosh from the home crowd.

      BTW the most often mentioned/repeated themes were comments telling Dowd to quit her ceaseless attacks on the Clintons and to quit calling President Obama "Barry."

      In addition to bringing you comments from elsewhere, Bob penned a comment himself. It only got 3 "likes."

    20. @9:18. I am in agreement that Bill Clinton was a great president.

      But please, let's not discount the utter stupidity of the Lewinsky affair as "unfortunate and all too human."

      There are lots of men out in the real world who don't cheat on their wives with starry-eyed, young adult female employees, then rationalize it as only BJs and late-night phone calls and not really sex.

      Fortunately for Bill, he was blessed with fools for enemies who couldn't resist overplaying their hand into "high crimes and misdemeanors."

    21. "BTW the most often mentioned/repeated themes were comments telling Dowd to quit her ceaseless attacks on the Clintons and to quit calling President Obama 'Barry.'"

      Among the 450+ comments to Dowd's column, it is hard to pick out one dominant theme. But yes, the "get off your fixation about the Clintons" far out-numbered the "Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall" comments.

      This is cherry-pickin' Bob at his worst.

  6. Howler readers. Bob didn't repeat this comment. Think it maybe sounded all too familiar if you change a name and place of two?

    "Maureen Dowd has become America's screechy old maid, the female equivalent to John "Get the Heck Off My Lawn" McCain. Instead of McCain's endlessly repeating himself in front of every camera in Washington, Dowd joylessly pounds out screed after screed attacking President Obama and Hillary Clinton. What neither McCain nor Dowd appreciate is that no one is listening anymore."

  7. This post only demonstrates that there are more Dowd commenters willing to believe that Bubba repealed Glass-Steagall than there are TDH readers.

    1. In other words, Dowd is *far* more widely read and influential than Somerby.

      But Somerby should shut up already about Dowd -- because she's irrelevant.

    2. I'm sure Dowd has her fans. And I have no doubt that the Beltway Society crowd still treasures the invitations to her fabulous dinner parties, attended by all the movers and shakers.

      But out here in flyover country, I can't think of a single person I know who has been "influenced" either directly or indirectly by anything Dowd has ever written.

      Now she is still cited by the right-wing echo chamber blogs to the tune of "even liberal NYT columnist Maureen Dowd says . . ."

      But then again, these same echo chamber voices occasionally said, "even liberal blogger Bob Somerby says . . ." Or at least, they used to.

    3. No, 8:44 AM, in other words IF there were "several dozen" (and I would bet Somerby is inflating his count) people willing to post a comment about Clinton and Glass-Steagall
      in response to Dowd, that number outnumbers Somerby's

  8. "Today I am pleased to sign into law S. 900, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This historic legislation will modernize our financial service laws, stimulating greater innovation and competition in the financial services industry. America's consumers, our communities, will reap the benefits of this Act."

  9. Reviewing the thirty comments on this post and the mere six on the other post today, it seems that only two commenters agreed with any point Bob made Bob wrote and one of those offered his agreement as an avenue to say he would never vote for Hillary Clinton.

  10. "The lifting of all restraints..." Ha! A great many restraints remained,


    This is actually very much on topic. I've often posted that the east coast Clinton derangement syndrome was well bested by the idiotic Marc Cooper of The Nation, The L.A. Weekly, and The Huffington Post. Some years back, slightly before he was exiled to Academia, Cooper started using his blog and Facebook Page to promote his daughter, who published a tie in book to "Mad Men," and some dubious mouthing off in the Family tradition. The current link I think sums the two of them up well, and leaves poor Mo in the dust.

    1. Egad, if she were to catch on she might even make Willie Geist Jr. look good by comparison.

      Do you remember Cooper's longtime drive time radio show on KPFK? He replaced Jerry Brown who went on to run for Mayor of Oakland. You're right about the derangement, imagine Cooper, Hitchens, and bitter Pat Cadell railing no holds barred against "rapist" Clinton for an hour. He claimed to have seen Clinton acting in a very disrespectful way to a young woman as a reporter early during the '92 campaign. When the Lewinski scandal broke he became unhinged. He also promoted the idea that Al Gore was personally supplying nuclear missile technology to China in order for them to threaten the United States. It got real strange.

      He's done some very good work, his Nation Radio interview with John Lewis discussing his book Walking With the Wind is perhaps the best interview I've ever heard. I remember him doing a superb job discussing labor/trade issues of the day, unlike anything you would hear today. He got a lot of heat for his insistence that the Left should refrain from promoting the Philadelphia "activist" convicted of killing a cop as a political cause.

    2. He was a good features writer who seemed to imagine himself a "radical" for his ability to denigrate Dems. Said grudges made his analysis at best worthless and at worst unhinged. He was chased out, very unfairly, at KPFK in a fringe purge of the station which nobody listens to anymore. They were very cruel and unfair with him, or you might say, what goes around....

  12. while it is true that most Dems voted to repeal G-S, why would you say,
    "Why did people vote as they did? We have no idea." ? Maybe because Clinton was pushing it? One wonders if Clinton had opposed repeal what the count would be. Please don't ask your readers to believe Bill was not responsible for this, for NAFTA, and for other actions that undermine the middle class.

    1. Bob is being a bit deceptive. When Gramm-Leach was a
      Senate Bill, all but one Democrat voted "no." It was the conference report, which contained some sweetners on Community Reinvestment aimed at appeasing Democrats, which got almost unanimous approval. Back in the days when bipartisan compromise (or caving if you prefer) was still possible.

      And notice the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. the real stinker from Phil Gramm, did have a major impact on the financial crisis since it deregulated derivative trading. It was mentioned by a couple of Dowd's commenters but glossed over here by Somerby. It was stuck in a lame duck session appropriations bill passed after the Gore/Bush debacle with the active support of the Clinton administration.

  13. Let's just say that Clinton was a child of the DLC -- one of those southern "liberals" that bob likes to pretend exists. No, there are genuine southern radicals and populists, but southern liberal is an oxymoron. Bob has to explore the true complexity of our history. Gore, Landrieu -- what a world in which to see one's main inspiration! There's a generational divide between them and an LBJ which he just doesn't see.

    1. To be fair, both Clintons paid a heavy political price for trying to bring this nation its first national health insurance plan. He also paid dearly and politically for trying to end sexual orientation discrimination in the military, which wound up with the compromise "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

      Plus, he paid heavy for restoring progressivity to the income tax code by adding a higher tax bracket on top incomes.

      The problem with many "progressives" is they think they are electing a left-winger, then they get a guy (or woman, perhaps in a couple of years) who has to govern from the middle in a nation of 300 milllion people, all wanting different things.

      You do that by building consensus. And that often means compromise. Which of course is anathema to "true believers" on both ends of the political spectrum.

    2. I don't think Clinton personally paid much of a price. The Democratic Party sure did. I for one knew in '92 and '08 we weren't getting a progressive, and we won't get one in '16. Wall Street/corporate-type is the best we're going to get.

      BTW, where does Hillary stand on the issue of capital gains vs. income/work tax rates? Why do we punish work, as conservatives would say.

  14. Bob's revised history of Clinton:

    During my service in the Presidency, I took the initiative in creating the Mega Bank Monopolies. With a little help from plutocratic pandering pols in both parties.

  15. Like you, like these commenters, we aren’t experts on the repeal of Glass-Steagall. To see Paul Krugman seem to say that this didn’t produce “the 2008 implosion of Wall Street,” you can just click here.

    To see Bob Somerby seem to say changing the words of a phrase is OK as long as words are similar and you modify or hedge your bets by using "seems," then disappearing much of the context read the entirety of what Krugman said at the link.

    "It’s true that Glass-Steagall, a Great Depression–era law that forbade the mixing of securities trading and accepting FDIC-insured deposits under the same corporate roof, Instead, it was extraordinarily high levels of leverage at investment banks like Lehman and Merrill Lynch, as well as the holding of huge portfolios of toxic subprime mortgages by deposit-taking banks like Bank of America, that were the fuel for the conflagration. But progressives were right to feel that Wall Street had been dangerously underregulated for too long and that the entire country was now paying the price." Krugman

    Now, if "didn't produce" is the same as "wouldn't have prevented" doesn't "inventing" the Internet "seem" close to "creating" it?

    1. I wouldn't compare this to the campaign conducted by the corporate media against Al Gore. Gore said he took the initiative in creating the internet. What he obviously meant was that he took the initiative in the creation of the internet, which is true. The media knew this, but intentionally changed his actual words to take the statement farther from his actual intention. The question of why the corporate media, supposedly liberal, carried water for the mendacious Republicans has never been answered to my satisfaction.

    2. "The question of why the corporate media, supposedly liberal, carried water for the mendacious Republicans has never been answered to my satisfaction."

      CBS bigwigs Moonves and Redstone are Republicans. And CBS is the least corporafascist of the Big Three.

      See also: Upton Sinclair. "It is difficult to get a man to understand a thing when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

  16. I think your defense of Clinton is misplaced here. He not only supported and signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall he also betrayed his natural constituency with NAFTA and the refusal to support the regulation of the so-called shadow banking industry. In hindsight, this may have been fueled in part by the desire of Clinton's cronies to go back into the private financial industry and become filthy rich. There are other Democrats at fault here, of course, but that doesn't exonerate Clinton, who took the lead and as President provided cover for their desire to please the financial plutocrats for obvious reasons. In the realm of history, President Clinton will have a lot for which to answer.

  17. Somerby is correct, we are becoming more like "them" in that they also refuse to accept responsibility for their blunders. So much easier to point a finger and deflect responsibility. "They" call it "plausible deniability", we play the same game. Hey, NOBODY'S accountable! A truly great way to run a country.

    Robert Scherer wrote an excellent book explaining the political machinations. Seems a lot of people are accountable.

    1. Oops, Robert Scheer. The Great American Stickup. Worth correcting because it's worth the read.